The Horsetail Falls Loop begins at the side of the Historic Highway with … you guessed it, Horsetail Falls (#65 of the Top 100 Waterfalls in the Northwest according to waterfallsnorthwest.com). It is possible to wade in the splash pool, but we visited in spring and didn’t want to test the water temperature quite yet.
The trail is beautiful, as are all hikes in the Gorge. I’m including a picture of a tree we passed just because it was so pretty with the light hitting it just right.
The second waterfall on the loop is Ponytail Falls. The trail actually goes behind Ponytail through a cavern, which is always a neat feature. My husband and son scrambled down to the base of the waterfall to get a closer look, but I didn’t want to brave the mud and instead stayed on the trail to take their picture.
The third waterfall on the hike is Middle Oneonta Falls. (There is some confusion about the names of the falls on Oneonta Creek, but I’ve chosen to use the names found on waterfallsnorthwest.com.) Middle Oneonta is very scenic. Unfortunately, it can only be viewed from a bridge (which warns people to cross one at a time) or from a small viewing area on the far side of the bridge. Since the trail is a pretty popular one, you might not get to stay and linger as much as you would like before someone else comes along to take your place. So this is a quick stop, but a pretty one.
The final part of the hike is on the side of the Historic Highway to get back to the parking lot at the trailhead. Because of this – and the length of the hike – it’s probably not the best choice for families with preschoolers. Our seven-year-old was very tired by the time we reached the car. (OK, I’ll admit it – we were pretty tired, too!)
My rating: Must-see / favorite (4 stars)
(Waterfalls – 3 stars, Trail – 4 stars, Experience – 4 stars)
Distance from Beaverton: About an hour drive east
Nearest town: Cascade Locks
Nearest city: Portland
Length of round-trip hike: 2.6 miles
Best season to visit: Any
Things to know: Since several trails intersect with this hike, it might be helpful to have a map with you. You can find one here.
Consider combining this trip with: This is a good stand-alone trip, but it could be combined with any hike in the Gorge if you want. The closest trip to the west is Triple Falls (which follows Trail #424, so the end of the Horsetail Falls Loop is the beginning of the Triple Falls hike), and the closest to the east is Elowah Falls.
Toilet / Amenities: none
How to get there:
- From the west, drive east on I-84 to the Bridal Veil exit (#28).
- Drive east on the Historic Highway 5.6 miles to the trailhead.
- From the east, exit the freeway at the Dodson exit (#35) and drive westward on the Historic Highway 2.4 miles to the trailhead.
- Follow Horsetail Falls Trail #438 from Horsetail Falls to Ponytail Falls and then Middle Oneonta.
- Just beyond Middle Oneonta, turn right on Oneonta Trail #424.
- When you reach the Historic Highway, turn right to return to the parking lot.